January 18, 2013


Artifact: Map of German Lutheran Mission Work in North America


Significance: The map, titled Uebersichtskarte für das deutsch-lutherische Missionswerk in den Vereinigten Staaten Nordamerikas (Overview Map of German Lutheran Mission Work in the United States of North America) and dated one year after the formation of the Missouri Synod, shows the route Wilhelm Loehe’s Sendlinge (missioners) took to the Franconian colonies in Michigan and to Fort Wayne, Indiana.  It also notes the locations of Missouri Synod pastors, as well as recording other information about Lutheran work in what was the United States at the time.

Map Origins: The map, printed in Germany, does not identify the mapmaker. Theodore Graebner suggested in his book Church Bells in the Forest (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1944) that internal evidence within the map itself pointed to Wilhelm Loehe as the mapmaker.

Decoding the Map (click on the map for a larger view):The main focus of the map is the Midwest (the core of the Missouri Synod) as the states of Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa are more detailed, with county lines denoted and the corresponding county names listed on the sides of the map. Looking west at Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan, it is interesting to see which areas were settled by 1848 and which were still unorganized. In discussing this map, Graebner pointed out that a study of the map shows the way in which the Missouri Synod had a hand in the opening of the western United States.

The red line on the map shows the route taken to the Franconian colonies and to Fort Wayne. It goes from New York City north to Albany and then west to Buffalo. From there new immigrants traveled through Lake Erie. At that point the line breaks as some Sendlinge went southwest to Fort Wayne, while others traveled to Michigan. The line breaks a second time at Detroit as Franconian colonists took both land and water routes to get to the Saginaw area where they settled.

In the upper right corner there is an inset map of Frankenmuth and Frankentrost, the first two Franconian colonies, which were founded in 1845 and 1847 respectively. The English translation of the title of this small map is “Plan of the Mission Colonies Summer 1847 before the Arrival of New Settlers.” It notes the location of the church, school and the farms of the colonists for each settlement. The Frankentrost map also shows the location of the pastor’s property, while the Frankenmuth map gives the location of the mill, mission lands and the old way (road).

The large map contains colored lines under various city and town names and other unnamed locations denoted by a simple cross. Those underlined in green indicate the preaching stations of the Missouri Synod. A few locations underlined in blue are identified as “separated German Lutheran stations” (Getrennte deutsch luth. Stationen). These locations in Wisconsin and at Buffalo, New York, appear to refer to Buffalo Synod congregations. Settlements of Norwegian Lutherans are underlined in orange. For the sixty-three Missouri Synod stations, the names of the pastors are given at the top of the map with the locations of district conferences underlined.

For reference, the map also marks the cities where the seminaries of the General and Ohio Synods were located (underlined in red) and the locations of Roman Catholic priest stations and bishop seats in the western states.

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